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Magellan Mission to Venus

Goals: Magellan was designed to make quality radar maps of at least 70 percent of Venus' surface, providing a clear look at the topography below the planet's thick, perpetual cloak of clouds.

Accomplishments:Magellan mapped 98 percent of Venus' surface at a resolution of 100 to 150 meters (about the length of a football or soccer field), using synthetic aperture radar, a technique that simulates the use of a much larger radar antenna. It found that 85 percent of the surface is covered with volcanic flows and showed evidence of tectonic movement, turbulent surface winds, lava channels and pancake-shaped domes. Magellan also produced high-resolution gravity data for 95 percent of the planet and tested a new maneuvering technique called aerobraking, using atmospheric drag to adjust its orbit.

The spacecraft was commanded to plunge into Venus' atmosphere in 1994 as part of a final experiment to gather atmospheric data.

Key Dates
4 May 1989:  Launch (18:47:00 UT)
10 Aug 1990:  Venus Orbit Insertion
12 Oct 1994:  Final Contact (10:04 UT)
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Magellan Facts Magellan was the first interplanetary spacecraft launched from the Space Shuttle.

The spacecraft was named after Ferdinand Magellan (right), the 16th century Portuguese explorer whose expedition first circumnavigated the Earth.

Major components of the spacecraft were obtained from flight spares from the Galileo, Viking, Voyager, Mariner, Skylab, Ulysses and Space Shuttle programs.
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Last Updated: 29 Apr 2015